Feed Sack Pack

Posted by: billstephenson

Feed Sack Pack - 09/19/11 01:38 AM

I've been thinking about getting a new pack, but moneys tight and I just can't swing it, and I read an article somewhere awhile back about making an ultralight pack out of feed sacks which has had me thinking.

Today I got out my bag of webbing straps, buckles and what not, and grabbed a couple empty 50lb feed sacks I'd been saving for playing with that concept. The first thing I did was take my blue foam sleeping pad and roll it up and put it inside one of the sacks and let it expand. It fit about perfect. Then inside that I stuck my fleece sleeping bag and sleeping bag, my hammock and tarp, then my stove, too much fuel, my pot, cup and utensils.

That about filled it up. There was a little more room in it, but not enough, and I still needed a way to close the top.

For the top I figured I'd try just cutting the bottom off another feed sack, turn it upside down, and pull it overtop of the one I just filled up. Before cutting it I tried fitting the opening around the loaded sack to make sure it would fit. It did, and pulled down a ways it made a nice tight seal too. For the heck of it I pulled it all the way down as far as it would go.

I sat there and stared at it for a bit. I realized that if I didn't cut the outer sack shorter I could pull it up or down and adjust the room inside the pack, and really make a lot more room when I needed it, like when I wanted to bring my down coat.

Then I cut the stitches on the top of the outer sack and took one of my straps with a buckle and folded the open sack over it a few times and closed it like a dry bag you use for canoeing. That worked sweet, fast and easy access and a waterproof seal!

Now I needed to figure out a way to strap it onto me. I grabbed my old Peak 1 external frame pack and examined the hip belt and shoulder straps and wondered how I might vulturize those when it occurred to me that instead I might try and strap the sack to the Peak 1 frame. After a quick scrounge through my bag of straps I came up with a pretty simple rigging that works pretty good.

When I was done it all weighed about 15 lbs with the gear I listed above.

Here are some pics after I got it all mocked up...

The outer sack pulled down:

The Peak 1 Pack frame:

The outer sack pulled up for more room:

The way it's cradled in those diagonal straps you can adjust the sack up and down on the frame, and the horizontal straps compress the sack nice and tight to the frame. You can see in the pic of the frame that there's plenty of room to add another horizontal strap when the outer bag is extended up for more room.

I'm going to fire up the old Singer 99 and put some better stitching on those feed sacks and give this a try. I think the design has potential. At least the potential for me to put off buying a new pack this year laugh

Posted by: frenchie

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 09/19/11 03:16 AM

By the way, the easiest DIY reliable closing system is the roll-top, which can be done with webbing and buckles you seem to have a bagful of, some stiching or the adequate glue if you do not want to sew.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 09/19/11 11:15 AM

So once you get all the straps and stitching and belts attached...how much does it weigh?

I started on a project like this over the summer. My current pack weight about 3.5 pounds. The new one would weigh about 2.8 pounds. And it wasn't as convenient for many reasons.

So I am back with my original pack.
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 09/19/11 01:30 PM

Originally Posted By balzaccom
So once you get all the straps and stitching and belts attached...how much does it weigh?

My scale is a cheap one made for weighing fish and only graded by the 1/2 lb., but my best guesses shows it weighing in at about 3.2 lbs.

The original sack about a 1 lb. The new one about half that, maybe a bit less.

The frame itself about 2.5 lbs.

The strapping makes up the difference and there is much more there than I'll end up using, so I'd guess it will come in right about 3 lbs on the nose when I'm done.

I really do like the telescoping sack design. The sack is much bigger than the old one when extended, and slightly smaller when collapsed.

There are no mods needed on the frame. I just removed the stock pins and sack and added my straps where they fit best. I used the stock straps on the bottom of the frame for the diagonal straps holding the bottom of the new sack.

I'm sure all those old Kelty frames would work just as good, maybe even better. I'd think just about any old external frame could be retro fitted the same way.

I need to get some nylon upholstery thread. You can't buy any here in the boonies, so I guess I'll order it online and pay to ship it and wait for it to get here frown

Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/04/11 12:05 AM

I got the feed sacks stitched up. The old Singer 99 and nylon upholstery thread did fine. Now I've been playing with different ways to mount and load the pack.

The feed sacks have about a 13" diameter and are about 25" long. When the overlap on them is adjusted to make the shortest sack you get about 2850 cu in of storage. It can be adjusted it to 40" tall and still have 4 inches of overlap and plenty of enough room to fold the top shut and that gives you about 4500 cu in. Those are conservative estimates based on what I figure you'll actually get out of it. (I took an inch off the diameter in my calculations and rounded the numbers to look nice). I give a more accurate weight after I finish and cut all the extra strapping off.

Adjusting the sack so it fits pretty much centered vertically on the frame seems pretty comfortable with a 27lb load. That's as much as I've stuffed into it so far.

As you said, it's not as convenient. It's a top loading pack with no pockets. I think I can get used to that, and make the best of it by using ditty bags organized with stuff. But I do like conveniences, so I've been thinking of ways to attach some pockets. wink

Because of the "telescoping" sack design, and the straps used to compress the load and attach it to the frame, sewing pockets on it is not a good option. So I'm thinking of a sort of "Tool Belt" type set of pockets that are removable. It could hold water bottles, compass & maps, gps, phone, snacks, whatever, and be made with the same feed sack material. It could be attached with straps after everything was packed and cinched down.

I'll get a chance to give it a decent test it in a couple weeks. It's such a hillbilly looking rig, I can't wait to try it out smile
Posted by: finallyME

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/04/11 01:50 PM

When I made my sons backpack, I made the water bottle pouch to be held on by the straps. The pack is a very similar idea to your feed sack pack.

Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/04/11 02:34 PM

That's cool! (Not at all "Hillbilly" like mine blush

I've got some material I could use for a water bottle pouch like you've made, and some cord locks I've scrounged. One of those on each side would work great.

I tried putting water bottles in between one of the straps, pack, and frame, on each side, and they held nice and tight, but I'd have to loosen the strap a bit to remove one when I wanted a drink, and when I did that the bottle on the other side fell off too. It looked like a really good plan when I first put them there though frown

Thanks for showing me what you've got. I might still try the "tool belt" idea with my sack material. I'm thinking I might be able to make it so I can use it as a fanny pack for short hikes from a campsite. But I suspect I'll end up doing exactly what you did. That's all I really need, and I don't need more weight.
Posted by: FredMT

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/04/11 02:52 PM

So, how long do ya reckon it will be before some ranger asks what your planning on planting in the forest? I have a "weed seed free" certified tag you could put on there if you think that might keep you from getting strip searched.
Posted by: Glenn

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/04/11 03:37 PM

"...might keep you from getting strip searched."

Why am I suddenly reminded of the punch line for an old joke: "You're not really hunting bear, are you?" smile
Posted by: finallyME

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/04/11 06:07 PM

Well, I have been working on a similar style pack for myself. I bought some MOLLE suspension and a frame and then ditched the frame for an old aluminum frame I had. I used it for two trips, one with my sons, more than 50 lbs and only 2 miles, and the other being 10 miles and around 40 lbs. Both trips showed how comfortable the MOLLE straps were on the pack. Here is a picture of it when I really loaded it with 2 sleeping bags, a 2 man tent, my hammock, and clothes for me and my son, plus food for 3.

Because I like the way it felt, I wanted to see and make one a little smaller, but still use an external frame and the MOLLE suspension. I was able to buy another aluminum frame from a thrift store that weighed in at .88 lbs. However, when I weighed the MOLLE suspension, they were very heavy. The hip belt was 1.17 lbs, and the shoulder straps were 1.43 lbs. So with just the frame and suspension, I am at 3.5 lbs. I really like the design of the suspension, so I am planning to sew my own with lighter material (not 1000D cordura). I just finished another water bottle holder this weekend that attaches to my hip belt. I like it on the hip belt more. It is easier to get to. I also want to make a front pack, similar to the Kifaru Koala.

Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/04/11 08:06 PM

They might not strip search me, but they'll sure be wondering why I'm carrying 50lbs of "Stock and Stable" horse feed off into the forest crazy

Still, a certified "weed seed free" tag might not be a bad addition to my pack! laugh
Posted by: FredMT

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/04/11 09:01 PM

Homeland security's next big thing. Looking for people smuggling "weed" seed into the forest under the ruse of carrying horse feed. They might get confused if you don't have the horses with you. FYI, I always make the horses carry their own food, or do they have you trained?
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 10/05/11 12:46 PM

That's really cool!

I hadn't ever thought of strapping more than one bag on the frame, but that does make a lot of sense. And I've only really become aware that you could buy hip belts and shoulder straps individually since reading some of your previous posts and these here.

Making a hip belt and shoulder straps is above my skill level right now, but that's never stopped me from trying before wink

Thanks again for taking the time to share this with me!
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 11/05/11 03:06 PM

I finally got the chance to test out the "Feed Sack Pack" on a real hike and it worked pretty darn good too. I did about 12 miles through some pretty rough terrain, not quite bushwhacking, but pretty darn close to it. I had it loaded with about 30lbs with bramble and branches trying to snag me most the entire way.

I didn't baby the pack either. I leaned up against trees with it along the way to help relieve the load while I waited to catch my breath, set it on the rocks and ground at other times, and generally treated it like I did when I had the factory bag attached to the frame.

The "Telescoping" design using a "bottom" sack inside a "top" sack worked out great. As I shed clothes I just lifted the top sack a bit to make more room to fit them inside. The compression straps attached to the frame kept the pack tight to the frame and all the gear snugly inside it. , And I attached a couple of "CargoLoc Tarp/Canopy" stretchy cords between the compression straps to hold my butt pad and trash bag on the outside of the pack.

I also bought a cool little drybag for my GPS at Wal-Mart in the camping section. It already had a belt loop on it that fit my hip belt straps perfectly, and I had a water bottle holder already sitting on my gear shelf for the other side.

I ended up making a sort of "Fanny Pack" out of the feed sack material that I clipped on the lower part of the pack to carry my water, fuel, and some snacks for easy access. It uses the same dry bag closure and worked out pretty good too.

So far it's not showing any wear after the hike so I'm pretty sure it will last long enough to make it through the season, but burros will make sure I'll have some spare sacks soon to replace it if it doesn't. smile

Maybe most important, I think it was quite a bit easier to carry. I could adjust the load better, and keep it tighter to the frame. The pack didn't shift around at all and it only took a bit of adjusting to get it nicely balanced.

Since I could get all my gear inside it, and placed what I wanted to on the outside, and it was easier to carry, I can say that for me it's a pretty nice upgrade. I don't think I'll be putting the old sack on that frame again anytime soon.

At the very least been a fun project, and it inspires me to keep poking around with making my own gear.
Posted by: finallyME

Re: Feed Sack Pack - 11/07/11 09:29 AM

Excellent. Thanks for the update.